Fair Weather Fixes
Outdoor attractions and water parks are best enjoyed under the glow of fair skies and mild temperatures. On the flip side, heavy rain and thunderstorms can force operators to close outdoor rides out of an abundance of caution. These rainy days can leave guests bored and disappointed. So, how can attractions provide sunshine on a gloomy day? Shining guest service.
The secret to success rests in providing sufficient weatherproof activities (both permanent and improvised) and amenities, so that “there is still fun for guests to enjoy until the rain ends,” says Timothy Ng, executive director of operations and entertainment at Ocean Park Corp. in Hong Kong.
Keep Having Fun When Skies Turn Gray
Australia’s eastern Gold Coast gets its share of rainy weather. This inspired Village Roadshow Theme Parks (VRTP) to ensure that “the majority of our rides, attractions, and shows will continue to operate in rainfall,” says VRTP Chief Operating Officer Bikash Randhawa. “It is only when there is extreme inclement weather such as lightning and high winds that for guests’ safety, we temporarily suspend operations of our outdoor attractions.”
“High-level protocols and practices are in place to ensure guest safety before, during, and after storm weather,” says Paul Callander, chief operating officer at Australia’s Dreamworld (also on the Gold Coast).
When the rain does come, both Dreamworld and VRTP direct guests to indoor attractions. So does Ocean Park Hong Kong. Even in the worst rainstorms, “guests can still enjoy our indoor animal facilities to observe the marine animals, giant pandas, koalas, and red pandas feeding, playing with their enrichment toys, or taking their midday naps,” says Ng. “Our trainers will still demonstrate their behavioral training to the guests inside the exhibit. Guests can still enjoy rides, like our covered ‘Sea Life Carousel.’”
At some attractions, permanent indoor exhibits may not hold short attention spans until the rain stops.
At the Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia, ride operators secure their locations during rainstorms and then meet the guests inside park facilities. The staff is trained to provide guests with activities such as creating a spontaneous dance party, or playing four square and hopscotch in covered areas that will provide smiles until the showers stop.
“We call it our ‘Stay and Play’ program,” says Cindy Romero, Wild Adventures’ attractions and admissions manager. “When a storm hits, we give guests something to do so they can still have fun until the weather passes and we can get all the attractions up.”
The only downside? “Sometimes the guests don’t want to stop playing the games once the weather clears up,” she says. “They’re just having that much fun!”
Wild Adventures isn’t alone in inspiring guests to have fun during rainy days.
“At my previous outdoor theme park (Legoland Malaysia Resort), we provided play equipment and small games,” says Daan Duijm, general manager of Indonesia’s Trans Studio Theme Parks Jakarta (Cibubur) and Bandung. “We often do building-block competitions using Lego bricks, or a dance at the restaurant with a movable speaker.”
Meanwhile, the Great Escape Water Park in Mumbai, India, copes with rain by offering games that can be played safely outside, plus musical chairs and housie (a form of bingo) indoors. “We have our live DJ play rainy seasonal songs,” says Rajen Shah, managing director, Arihant Industrial Corporation Ltd., which owns Great Escape.
Connections Through Thunder and Typhoons
From tropical cyclones to thunderstorms, the Galaxy Macau resort in China is prepared.
“We proactively offer fresh towels to guests and direct them to changing rooms or hotel entrances if they want to go back to their rooms during facility closures,” says Yik Ho, assistant vice president of resort services. “Our duty managers and supervisors are responsible for escorting or directing guests to covered walkways from the pools or outdoor areas during heavy rain and lightning.”
Managing guest expectations during major storms also matters.
“During times of inclement weather, our team is trained to interact with our guests and provide information on what activities they could be experiencing during these weather events,” says Randhawa of VRTP in Australia. “We have plans in place for extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones to ensure the safety of our guests and team members.”
At Wet ‘n’ Wild Hawaii, “safety is paramount for our visitors so if we don’t close but wait out a storm, then guest comfort and shelter are priorities,” says Keanu Santana, the park’s operations manager. “We sometimes serve hot chocolate for those waiting. Rain is not too much of a concern for us since everyone is getting wet anyway, but lightning or high winds are concerns.”
Turning Rainy Days into Growth Opportunities
Rainy days can boost sales at theme parks and, if properly handled, provide revenue growth opportunities. For instance, at Ocean Park, “raincoats and umbrellas are very popular items for guests to buy from our retail shops,” says Ng, “whilst guests can also enjoy their nice meals at our themed restaurants.”
When it is wet outside, guests are happy to pay for indoor amusements that they might otherwise have missed. Hence, at Galaxy Macau, guests are invited to visit the resort’s Kids Club, the cinema, and other indoor entertainment centers, like the spa. In an unprecedented move, the resort will even help guests stay entertained off-property.
“Our receptionists can even recommend other competitors’ integrated resort indoor attractions or entertainment, as a sign of our goodwill,” says Ho.
Rainy days can inspire park operators to devise new money-making opportunities. For instance, at VRTP, permanent roof structures will shelter guests and funnel them toward revenue-generating locations at Movie World and Sea World.
“It provides our guests with a safe location to wait out the weather, and [the roofs] are designed so that our retail and food and beverage outlets are accessible,” shares Randhawa.
Staying creative while managing rainy days allows operators to better connect with guests, inspiring visitors to have a good time despite bad weather, and thus providing growth opportunities for parks.
Such successful payoffs can come down to something as simple as a game of hopscotch at Wild Adventures during a downpour, that keeps the kids happy … while mom and dad sigh in relief that the day isn’t ruined.
“We’ve had a great deal of guest interactions and positive reviews due to our Stay and Play program,” says Romero. “They tell us that ‘the weather wasn’t that great, but the staff helped keep us entertained, and we didn’t have to sit around bored, waiting for the rides to reopen.’ So, it has had a very positive impact on our guests, their experiences, and our business.”